Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cowards need Stand your Ground for Provoke then Shoot.

Stand your ground fosters Provoke and Shoot.

Analyze total context, not just moment of final action. 
Did the target feel threatened, act to defend; was the gun already out.
 Legitimate grounds to fear, from his experience.
Real victims of real assailants already have the ultimate defense; stand your ground extraneous.

Guns. The gun is the coward's way out, the loser's trump, in an otherwise man-to-man fight, in a state with stand-your-ground laws.  The gun, in a stand your ground state, where the gun is hidden and emerges without warning as the nuclear option, when the parties are engaged and one is losing, trumps justice just because somebody felt threatened, even though they started that ball rolling.  Does that fit the Martin-Zimmerman issue? We will never know because there were no security cameras, no witnesses. Home run.  George.  Did he instigate a probable mano a mano by the following, then betray that very tradition when he was losing. Does it matter.

1. Gun as nuclear option.  Only allow as last resort.  Analyze the totality, not the "rules" at the last instant. Culpability may remain. The statute in most stand-your-ground states does not look behind the moment of last confrontation. What position were the parties in then. What went before? Redraft statutes to include balancing, include equities, who lured, who responded, mindsets.

2. Gun as deus ex machina.

The gun is the old deus ex machina, the god that descends upon chaos on the stage in early theater, a machine that lowered with the god inside,  see, that enabled the resolution to
a) descend on the mess,
b) pick sides and act one way or the other, and
c) so solve the problem, at least for the viewpoint of the particular god.

The resolution, by a deus ex machina, the god from the machine, fixes the issue regardless of other claims of right of anyone, wrong, merit, morality. Whip out the hidden gun. 

3.  Gun as ultimate ha-ha. 

As effective now as it was in the 18th Century, hide the barrier, sink the fence, conceal the ditch, create a protective ha-ha as in landscaping. Also keeps in the sheep, trips up trespassers. See

The Gotcha. Ace in the hole. The factor that emboldens a coward to provoke.  In a confrontation, hide it, provoke a confrontation, then bring it out to end the mano-a-mano in an unfair way.  Mano-a-mano, a common concept, for one on one battles.  See Man to man. 

The gun used as a ha-ha lets the loser change the rules. Bring on the nuclear option. Lower the deus ex machina. Bang. Or, for old gods, hail Zeus with the lightning bolt. 

4. Gun as legitimate defense.

This does not require stand-your-ground. There is a time to retreat.

In stand-your-ground states, it does not matter who instigated, provoked the initial confrontation.  Whoever last feels threatened, regardless in role in luring, will win if there are no security video cameras or witnesses, he (she) can get at a gun fast, or,  more importantly, if that person had a concealed gun in hand and ready for use.  The other party, who believed this would be a mano-a-mano matter, suddenly finds that the loser is going nuclear. Speculation, but how far off?

Vet the circumstances. Is stand your ground working to favor unreasonableness, is it the coward's way out -- plan to have the gun, push the issue, then claim defense.

 How to discern:  the exploiter, the coward, who brings the gun to the fight when the mano-a-mano he provoked goes bad for him. How to discern that manipulation of law, from the non-instigating victim who is threatened with severe bodily harm, who draws a gun in real self defense.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Poor Laws: England to US. Rudderless Lack of Study. Shifting Priorities and Punishments

 What Responsibility to the Poor? 
Polarizations in History

Republican -Type Views of Economic Self-Interest,
 Punishment of Others and Blame;

Democratic - Type Views of Responsibility to Others:
 Tolerance and Systemic Solutions

Issues since Medieval Times.
What goal: productivity, political stability, or privilege entrenchment.
Why not a human well-being summit.
Nations shunting their poor.

History snapshots, England, US

Can history and the humanities suggest ideas useful in dealing with Poor Laws in our day? Three lessons show here, looking at a small history of social welfare.  The largest problem may be terminology itself: welfare has come to mean handout; propose using well-being instead, to suggest a larger goal of once reasonably healthy, educated, mobile and fed, productivity has a chance to follow.

What to learn from past approaches to ameliorating the conditions of the poor:

1) In the long legislative road from 14th Century England to ourselves today, there were many fixes and milestones, in trying approaches, but there were not immediate attempts to repeal when the first approach leaked.  Address the problem; no tossing out of an entire idea.

2) No arguments are new.  From medieval times to how, the get-toughs blame and impose punishment for a poor person's failure to support himselfl;  the lend-a-hands like opening doors. The same rich v poor in dreadful badminton of human lives runs through the years. Ayn Rand is right out of medieval nobility.  Entrenched v seekers.

Most approaches agree there should be a winnowing out of slackers, but how broad need be the net.  Legislative bodies bat about punishment, inevitability of poverty so why care, taxes to help pay for programs for the poor according to ability to pay, encouragement, blame, duty, forced "deportation" (sending the poor back to the home parish), exploitation and generosity.

 3) How to allow prompt reinstatement of a poor person, one even who could be blamed for his own situation, into regular society.

Compare this issue, which is like "forgiveness",  to current immigration issues, with the poor in particular having entered through all the open windows of the past. Think how much amnesty, indulgence, pardon has played in Western religious life for millennia. But compare to the blockade now for any pardons, indulgences: suddenly amnesty is the pejorative, where popes and priests once gave pardons to any half-baked crusader to go kill infidels and have his own sins forgiven, or the one on the deathbed -- sign here so your farm goes to the church, and you will get out of purgatory, etc..  Apply those forgivenesses to one who is poor.  To forgive a poor person for acting to better himself now  is travesty. The original sin of walking in a virtually open door, says modern times, means the entering person is guilty, those who left doors open and encouraged entry to jobs, is innocent.  What?

Yet, even where forced resettling the poor back in their home parishes was used, there were many ways to achieve almost immediate full settlement status where the poor person was:  by getting a job, taking an apprenticeship, other criteria that granted reprieve after, say, a year.  That was countered by others firing the poor soul the day before the terms were met, and such happened, as now. 

A.  England

England began debating merits of legislation to help the poor in the 14th Century, in 1388 with the Statute of Cambridge;  see then later with Thomas Cromwell fostering legislation (that failed) in the 1530's, see  Follow the progress or lack of such: Old Poor Law, Settlement Act, New Poor La, and the many amendments, angles, backslidings, rationales.

The United States is debating the same issues today. 

Legislation finally arrived in 1601 at a gelling of issues known now as the Old Poor Law, The Act for Relief of the Poor. Its provisions centered on the local parish. It was loose, locally enforced, and provided for the voluntary establishment of workhouses.

  • Members of the parish were assessed a tax to benefit the poor, based on ability to pay. The status of poverty was seen as inevitable, yet the individual caught in it was still a victim.  The "betters" were obligated by Christian precepts to step in and help.  Parts of this law survived until 1967. Obligations:  care for the helpless and elderly, provide work and apprenticeships for children, provide materials for work for the able-bodied, imprisonment of shirkers, provide almshouses or poorhouses as residences, and workhouses for forced labor. Able relatives could be held responsible for the support of the poor person.

This was followed by the Settlement Act, 1662, An Act for the Better Relief of the Poor of This Kingdom.  This built upon the 1388 law, the Statute of Cambridge. Parts of these were not repealed until 1948. See

  • This allowed, by 1697, for the badging of the poor, the requirement to wear identifying letter P in red or blue cloth on a shoulder. The 1388 law provided for "deportation" away, of the poor individual who was becoming a public charge in a parish, to his place of "settlement" -- roughly, origin, and that was closely defined as time passed.  Settlement could be earned, acquired, however, as by the poor person becoming an apprentice in the parish; or by remaining employed for a (for example) year's duration, in which case the employer dismissed the person (often) on the day before. Other protections as they evolved excluded pregnant women by 1797, because they were seen to be expensive.

The New Poor Law built on earlier efforts. The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.

  • This established central enforcement and standardization, and also focused on the workhouse but as a deterrent. These laws saw the individual caught in poverty as having only himself to blame.  A poor person could change his situation if he wanted to.
The character of Thomas Cromwell as presented by author Hilary Mantel in her novel, Bring Up the Bodies,, demonstrates how very old the arguments are as to helping the poor and the persistence of resistance to doing anything for anyone else, despite a long view that the help can be helpful to the rich.

 Imagine Reformation era England:  Thomas Cromwell, a chief minister and advisor to Henry VIII,  fostered a poor law, but Parliament booted it back: And Cromwell muses:

"It was too much for the Commons to digest, that rich men might have some duty to the poor: that if you get fat, as gentlemen of England do, on the wool trade, you have some responsibility to the men turned off the land, the labourers without labour, the sowers without a field.  England needs roads, forts, harbours, bridges. Men need work It's a shame to see them begging their bread, when honest labour could keep the realm secure.  Can we not put them together, the hands and the task?"

B.  The United States.

American policy is a wasteland of misinformation, and rudderless lack of study.  See  A deep study of this areaTake a small course in the history of social welfare in the United States, as at  

After movements to improve slum conditions, came the Great Depression and the New Deal. 

1935:  Social Security Act.  Government took on an affirmative obligation, a "conscientious effort" to advance social welfare.  This followed a period of use of "mother's pensions" or funds for the "deserving poor" too old or too inform to be employed; and other ways of substituting an insurance idea for handouts. Then grew retirement benefits, and unemployment compensation. Then child welfare, aid to disabled, and vocational training.  With increasing numbers in need, came:

1938:  Fair Labor Standards Act -- minimum wage and limiting child labor

1960's:  Add Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; and Medicaid for the very poor; and Medicare for the elderly.

More increasing numbers. And residency as a requirement was deemed unconstitutional, see site.

1996: Backlash during the Clinton years, against increasing welfare rolls, people seemingly unable to get off once on, generations stuck.

Rather than examine the system increasingly rewarding the better off and widening the income and opportunity gap left for the poor, came the old blame idea back again, see Reformation and Cromwell, as in the swing of English Poor Laws:  

Personal Responsibility and Works Opportunity Reconciliation Act.

The title alone raises some hackles. Suddenly anyone receiving assistance was irresponsible, is that so?  But what were the options available to those on the receiving end?  That is where studies and analysis are needed.

Welfare was limited to a five year period, but states could reduce that further, regardless of the person's situation (reupping was difficult) or lack of success in finding work. An affirmative obligation to find work was key. There was no coordination with availability of child care, recognition of education disparities, inadequate transportation, mental and other health issues. And an aging population.   However, there were no comparable works opportunities put in place to be reconciled.